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by Julia

Elizabeth and I have a lot of things in common, and our mutual affinity for lyrical analysis is chief among them. The vast majority of music is written about romance and relationships, and we certainly appreciate love-related lyrics. But  lately, I’ve been drawn to music that speaks to the greater issues in society.

This evening, I went to Busboys & Poets in DC with some fellow members of the UMD Women’s Collective to attend a lecture on CIA drone attacks in Pakistan. Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern were the speakers, and my expectations for a stimulating discussion (and some conspiracy theories) were more than met. What I wasn’t expecting was the musical introduction from David Rovics. Rovics has been called “the musical version of Democracy Now!” and Sheehan introduced him by saying that we would “laugh, cry, and be moved towards direct action” by his lyrics and delivery. We all were.

His folky song style reminded me of The Mountain Goats‘s John Darnielle, but his lyrics could only be compared to the empassioned speeches and political theory I study in (and out of) school. And Rovics’s subject matter is comprehensive: he performed about seven poems and songs and covered: Katrina/New Orleans, activist stereotypes, kid power, the commons, Gaza, Somali pirates, The Eureka Rebellion, Lebanon, and government corruption. A sampling of some song titles:

“who would jesus bomb?” “halliburton boardroom massacre” “after the revolution” “whoever wins in november” “pirates of somalia”

His song about New Orleans and the incredibly racist betrayal of human beings at the hands of an inept government moved me to tears. The next minute, Rovics’s performance of I’m a Better Anarchist Than You had all of us laughing hysterically and exchanging knowing looks. His somber poem, Lebanon 2006, was received by the audience with nods and serious reflection.

I think I was so moved by Rovics because of his combination of musical talent, brilliant lyrics, and praxis. Rovics’s songs are all available for free download on his site (“music is the commons“). He regularly plays house parties and participates in direct action. He says what many are afraid to admit: politicians are all the same. He has a kid’s CD!!! (I recommend “Bullies”) And his lyrics are neatly archived — something Elizabeth and I greatly appreciate.

I came away from the lecture tonight with a profound reminder of what we’re working towards: the universal realization that each human being – regardless of national origin – is equal, that each human life is equal. (7 CIA agents were killed in Afghanistan in late December by a suicide bomber who was enraged by “tyrant America’s [murder] of civilians.” The US solution to the deaths of several Americans is to launch more attacks on “terrorists,” resulting in civilian deaths far outnumbering the 7 lives lost.)

I also left with a new favorite musician.

Here are some lyrics (and download links):

I’m a Better Anarchist Than You [download]

i don’t drive a car
’cause they run on gas
but if i did
it’d run on biomass
i ride a bike
or sometimes a skateboard
so fuck off all you drivers
and your yuppie hordes
sitting all day
in the traffic queues
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t eat meat
i just live on moldy chives
or the donuts that i found
in last week’s dumpster dives
look at you people in that restaurant
i think you are so sad
when you coulda been eating bagels
like the ones that i just had
i think it is a shame
all the bourgeois things you do
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t wear leather
and i like my clothes in black
and i made a really cool hammock
from a moldy coffee sack
i like to hop on freight trains
i think that is so cool
it’s so much funner doing this
than being stuck in school
i can’t believe you’re wearing
those brand new shiny shoes
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t have sex
and there will be no sequel
because heterosexual relationships
are inherently unequal
i’ll just keep moshing
to rancid and the clash
until there are no differences
in gender, race or class
all you brainwashed breeders
you just haven’t got a clue
i’m a better anarchist than you

i am not a pacifist
i like throwing bricks
and when the cops have caught me
and i’ve taken a few licks
i always feel lucky
if i get a bloody nose
’cause i feel so militant
and everybody knows
by the time
the riot is all through
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t believe in leaders
i think consensus is the key
i don’t believe is stupid notions
like representative democracy
whether or not it works
i know it is the case
that only direct action
can save the human race
so when i see you in your voting booths
then i know it’s true
i’m a better anarchist than you

New Orleans [download]

Everybody knew that it could happen
The likelihood was clear
The future was coming
And now it’s here
They had to fix the levees
Because otherwise they’d break
On one side was the city
Above it was the lake
It was in the daily papers
In bold letters was the writ
What would happen
When the Big One hit
But every year they cut the funding
Just a little more
So they could give it to the Army
To fight their oil war

In National Geographic
And the Times-Picayune
They forecast the apocalypse
Said it was coming soon
Preparations must be made, they said
Now is the time
It was years ago they shouted
Inaction was a crime
They said the dikes must be improved
And the wetlands must be saved
But Washington decided
Instead they should be paved
Because malls were more important
Than peoples’ lives
So put some gold dust in your eyes
And hope no storm arrives

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

Years and years of warning
No evacuation plan
It was just if the waters rose
Just get out if you can
There were no buses
No one chartered any trains
There was no plan to rescue
All of those who would remain
All the people with no money
All the people with no wheels
All of those who didn’t hotwire
One that they could steal
Thousands and thousands of people
Abandoned by the state
Abandoned by their country
Just left to meet their fate

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And the people died
And then they died some more
They drowned inside their attics
An army of the poor
An army of the destitute
Who couldn’t get away
And the world will remember
These sad and awful days
When people shouted from their houses
Dying on their roofs
When people came to find them
They were turned back by the troops
They died there with no water
They died there in the heat
They were shot down by the soldiers
For trying to find some food to eat

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And now the city is in ruins
A massive toxic sea
Scattered through the nation
Half a million refugees
Here we are
In the richest country on the earth
Where the color of your skin
Determines what your life is worth
Where oil is the king
Where global warming is ignored
Where the very end of life
Is the place we’re heading toward
Where it’s more than just a metaphor
The flooding of the dike
And if we don’t stop this madness
The whole planet will be like

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

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by Julia

I’m reblogging this post from the SdS Womyn’s Caucus Blog. It is written by a fellow student at UMD, Aliya Mann, who also happens to be a member of our new Women’s Collective. Aliya and I share a lot of the same feelings on polyamory within activist communities and concerns about how to reconcile existing relationship models with feminism. Feel free to comment!

By Aliya, College Park

* This is not meant to be offensive to anyone who is involved in or supports monogamous or polyamorous relationships- it is just my thoughts on the potential issues of both relationship models and my opinion that they leave little room for the existence of an alternative. I am speaking as a hetero-privileged cis-gendered woman involved primarily in heterosexual relationships.

That being said…

As feminists, we can effortlessly recite the laundry list of reasons why monogamy can be problematic- it is based on heteronormative ideals of relationships, it features marriage/children/establishment of home and family as the culminating events of the relationship (and marriage is a patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic, and religious institution, while we’re at it), and it leaves little room for sexuality/sexual exploration outside of the confines of the relationship. So polyamory shines in comparison as the progressive, feminist, sex-positive alternative to monogamy, right? But indeed, polyamory has its issues, although it may provide more wiggle room than monogamy, and ideal polyamory has the notion of sexual liberation, choice, and defiance of gender roles and expectations built into it. But yet it often does not work, even within communities of progressive activists and radicals- so why is this the case? If everyone is open, honest, sex-positive, and most importantly consenting, then what is the issue? Why, if someone is not wanting a serious relationship, is into casual sex and dating, and supports alternative relationship models, does polyamory still feel uncomfortable at times?

Male privilege and patriarchy: It seems like a lot of problems can be blamed on patriarchy, but for good reason, because it kind of throws a monkey wrench into everything. As much as men who are in polyamorous situations don’t want to admit it, they have privilege as males that needs to be recognized, openly communicated with to their partners and other people in their lives, closely examined, and checked. No matter if a man thinks a woman has the power in the relationship because- A: she can withhold sex from them/break up with them at any time, B: there are more women than men involved in a particular polyamorous situation, or C: the man has done everything possible to make the situation peachy keen- recognize that women wouldn’t be totally wrong for feeling powerless in poly situations. Women have been socialized to believe they are the weaker sex, have been told that their sexual liberation and freedom is wrong (or slutty, or whorish, or what have you), there continues to be a double standard for women who date and/or have sex with multiple partners, and many women have been taught since youth that they should aspire for only heterosexual, monogamous relationships inevitably leading to marriage and children.

Exploitation: Men and the patriarchy often make it their aim to define and exploit female sexuality for their own gain. By equating polyamory with female sexual liberation and equating anything else (whether it be monogamy or something in between monogamy and polyamory) with being anti-sexuality and sex-negative, exploiters continue to define female sexuality for their own purposes and benefit. Women are often not taught that it is okay to be sexual and to explore alternative sex/dating/relationship models, and thus often do not have the words or ideas to define their sexuality in a manner that is easily understood or accepted by society. It is important for all individuals to be given the resources and opportunity to define and understand their sexuality for themselves, and their partners should only facilitate and encourage that learning process.

Exclusion (this doesn’t directly apply just to poly relationships but to relationships in general): Women are often underrepresented within activist and radical communities and often feel unwelcome, so they may look for companionship with a more veteran member of the community. Sometimes this companionship/friendship can turn into a dating and/or sex situation, but even if this occurs with consent from both partners, it can still be damaging to the newer member if they feel like their only link to the group is through their partner (and this may be the case, depending on how exclusionary the group is).

Sexism and misogyny: We know it goes on in purportedly progressive and radical communities, but are folks in the community, especially men, actively fighting and speaking out against it? It might not be said in the presence of women, but if hateful comments or rhetoric aren’t explicitly revealed in one form or another, they manifest themselves through other more subtle behaviors and actions that make women and other traditionally unrepresented or marginalized groups feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, and unwanted. An organization such as SDS, while not making women’s rights the focal point of its activism and work, would be wise to address issues such as sexism and misogyny in terms of how they apply to the larger scheme of its organization’s mission and how these can effect the inner workings of the organization itself. Capitalism largely operates by exploiting all marginalized groups, including women, and by maintaining societal power inequalities that continue male privilege and female oppression. If sexism and misogyny are not addressed by the community and/or the organization where it happens, then women cannot be faulted for feeling uneasy in poly situations that already have within them male privilege and the fear of exploitation.

Consent: Verbalized, enthusiastic, open, honest, and non-judgmental consent is essential to any relationship, and especially so in a poly relationship, so this shit needs to be acknowledged and discussed on a reoccurring basis with partners. Women who participate in a poly relationship are not open or up for anything, but that is often the perception of outsiders who observe the situation (if they’re okay with that, they must be okay with anything!), although consent is never negotiable in any situation. If a community does not address the importance of consent and establishing boundaries, they do not put in place a framework to make women feel comfortable enough to engage in alternative and/or poly relationships. They also fail to develop resources and a foundation for dealing with instances where folks feel like their boundaries have been violated in any way or they have been mistreated by someone within the community.

So then, where does all of this leave those of us who don’t conform to either traditional monogamy or polyamory relationship models? I really have no clue, so I pose this question to anyone reading who has an idea. Why don’t we allow for as much exploration and openness with relationship models as we do (at least within activist and radical communities) with gender, sexuality, etc.? And if we do, we certainly don’t devote as much time to discussion about or exploration of these issues as with other important aspects of identity.

H/t to this piece for some great thoughts on the subject.

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by Julia

First tab dump of the new year = a retrospective on the past year.

A graphical representation of topics covered by the media in 2009. Of note: Israel vs Gaza coverage…surprised that Balloon Boy isn’t bigger (seriously, as I recall, the media talked of nothing else for a few weeks this summer.)

Front page story in the Baltimore Sun on Jan 1 about the budget cuts and student activism @ UMD.

Yeah, pretty sure feminism is far from “gone.”

In defense of end-of-decade lists – you could read them as indicative of cultural decline, or as a means of expanding cultural appreciation.

Elizabeth and I went out in DC last night with some of my friends from Maryland – we love old buildings and wine, so Local 16 was a perfect setting. Highly recommended.

Another DC reminder: Restaurant Week starts the 11th and gives me a really good excuse to try delicious food at otherwise unattainable restaurants. Any favorites on the list?

Stay tuned for a loooong post on A Dangerous Liaison either later tonight or tomorrow morning. Happy weekend, Readers!

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